Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Post Processing for 3-D Photography

Above is the photo I was shooting with the home made rig I displayed in my last blog post. This is one of the guns on display at the entrance to Battleship Park in Mobile, Alabama. If you look hard you can the Battleship Alabama in the background.

I really didn’t want to get into post processing because it involves so many of the same kinds of issues that make me generally dislike digital photography and why I still predominately shoot film. Somehow though, all that computer techie stuff seems justified and dare I say it, even fun, when it comes to creating 3-D stereo mages. In any case, when it comes to turning photographic images into stereo pairs to create a 3-D image there’s often a bit of work to be done after the pictures are taken.

In the “old days” of course, people sat for hours at well lighted work tables with magnifying glasses and special cutters to carefully align and crop the images, mount them in frames or holders to make them suitable for viewing in specially made photo or slide viewers. Viewmaster reels are just one familiar example of this method and technology.

The idea is to have photos or slides aligned in such a way as to have the exact same frame of reference but from two different perspectives. This is not always possible but generally we get as close as we can and the brain does the rest for us.

These days of course we have computers to help us accomplish this with much greater accuracy and precision.  There are a number of different programs that can do what needs to be done but the one I use is free (a great advantage in my opinion) and is reportedly one of the very best for creating stereo pairs. It is appropriately called “Stereo Photo Maker” and is available at the following web site:

There is also a “Stereo Slide Show,” Stereo Movie Maker,” as well as other programs on the site but I’ve had my hands full with making photos and haven’t explored the others yet.

What “Stereo Photo Maker” does is create a perfectly aligned stereo pair and merge them together into one file which can then be viewed on the screen using the freeview method or any one of the viewers suitable for this purpose. The file can also be printed and used in a stereo photo viewer (or using the freeview method), or turned into slides to be used with a slide viewer. You can even make or have a Viewmaster type reel made to be viewed in a Viewmaster viewer.

I won't go into all the details of how  “Stereo Photo Maker” works here but encourage anyone who is interested in doing this to explore the web site further. One warning though - the documentation and instructions provided are brief and a bit sketchy. I had to experiment a bit to figure out how to make it do what I wanted it to do. Once i figured it out however, it did a great job. Maybe when I have more time I will attempt to write a tutorial for it.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Taking 3-D Pictures – Part 1

Here’s my home made rig for taking 3-D photos with the Nikon P-300. I countersunk and glued a ¼” hex nut into the bottom of an 8” x 3” piece of ¼” plywood, and screwed an 8” long piece of wooden yardstick to the top, making a slide base for the 4” wide camera. The scale on the yardstick allows me to easily move the camera exactly 65mm (2 ½”) between the first and second shot.

This also keeps the camera on the same horizontal plane which is a cardinal rule of creating stereo pairs. Since the camera is not attached in any way don’t go off and leave it perched on the slide like this or it will likely end up on the ground – possibly in more than one piece!

Taking stereo pairs (pictures) this way is actually quite simple. Just take a photo. Move the camera over 65mm (2 ½”), and then take another shot. 

Some photographers prefer the “Cha-Cha” method which dispenses with the slide and requires that the photographer simply hold the camera in the usual method, take the first shot, take a baby step to the side (presumably 65mm) and take the second shot. This method would seem to involve a higher risk of failure for obvious reasons.

In any case whether the “Cha-Cha” method is used (assuming successfully) or the slide method, there’s one real drawback to doing it this way. Only subjects that don’t move in between shots can be photographed in this manner. That generally rules out cats, dogs, people, cars (unless they’re parked), trees& flowers (unless there is no wind at all), and just about all the other things we most like to photograph. Statues, monuments, buildings, mountains etc. are all fine subjects of course.

To shoot stereo pictures of moving subjects requires that both the left and right image be recorded at the same exact time. That means either a stereo camera, single camera with a splitter/lens installed, or two cameras rigged to actuate the shutters simultaneously.  More on this in a later post!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Viewing 3-D Photographic Images

The above is what is called a stereo pair. Two images are taken from positions about the same distance apart as the human eyes and arranged in such a manner as to allow us to merge the two and create a 3-D image approximating what the original scene looked like. This is the peg board in my wife’s sewing nook.

This is where 3-D gets a bit complicated. First you have to realize that normally everything we see is in 3-D. When we take a picture of something we reduce it to a 2-D image. To see a 2-D image in 3-D we have to re-establish its depth artificially. 

The best way to accomplish this is to take two pictures simultaneously from two different locations in the same horizontal plane located from 65mm to 75mm apart. This is the average distance between the eyes of humans.

Next we must view those two images in such a way that the right eye looks at the right image and the left eye looks at the left image, thus imitating and re-establishing the original spatial relationship between the objects in the images.

If you stare at the middle of the two images above for a few moments and allow your eyes to refocus a third image will form in between the two images and will be in 3-D. I am told that only about half of all people can do this naturally. It is called “freeviewing.” Everyone else must use some kind of viewer. Try it and let me know if you can "see it" in 3-D.

There are a great many stereo or 3-D viewers that have been developed over the years. Some are for use with photographs while others work with slides, or transparencies. The Viewmaster discussion (see earlier blog post) that introduced this whole 3-D topic represents what is probably the most widely known and popular stereo slide viewer ever made. Millions of these have been sold since I was a kid and they’re still available these days. In fact I just bought one.

 More recently of course people are interested in viewers that can be used to see 3-D images with stereo pairs displayed on the computer screen. The new Fujufilm Fine Pix 3D W3 digital camera has a display screen which shows a 3-D video lenticular image. They also have a “tablet type device” that displays the same image except on a 7” screen.

Lenticular photos are also available from Fujufilm (for a price of course) using the uploaded digital images produced by their new 3-D camera and there is at least one film processor in Canada that also produces lenticular prints from film.

Many of these cameras & viewers, including the Viewmasters are available from If you want to see the things I’m talking about here check out their web site. is another interesting site on this subject.

In my next blog post I will discuss and demonstrate how to take stereo pictures and create stereo pairs to actually see your own 3-D stereo images.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sunday Photo Message!

                                          Sometimes a photo just say’s it all!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

3-D Cameras

I “borrowed” the above image of the Nishika camera from 3D where I ordered some Viewmaster reels and some viewers to help with my exploration of the world of 3-D. They not only sell this camera but they have others as well.

As with any kind of camera these days the basic choice is between film and digital. This is even truer with 3-D photography since the last 3-D craze dates back to the 1950’s with a minor revival in the early 1980’s. As such, most 3-D photographic technology today is film based and from those eras. 

There are still many used cameras and other equipment readily available from the 50’s & the 80’s. These include the Loreo, Kalimar, & Nishika/Nimslo cameras from the 80’s and the Realist, Kodak  & Viewmaster cameras from the 50’s & 60’s. The  Kalimar, & Nishika/Nimslo cameras are actually designed for lenticular images but can also be used for stereoscopic images by simply blocking or ignoring the additional images.

The truth is, the only new 3-D equipment for shooting film currently being produced are a couple of 3-D or multi-lens versions of “Toy Cameras” like the Holga, and the 3-D “splitter” lenses available from Loreo for some SLR’s & DSLR’s.

There are a couple of noteworthy entries in the digital 3-D camera market. As mentioned above the Loreo “splitter” lenses for modern DSLR’s essentially replace the camera’s lens and allow them to record two half-frame images onto the camera’s digital sensor which can then be combined to produce one stereoscopic image. In addition Fujufilm’s Fine Pix 3D W3 marks the first serious attempt by a major player to enter the 3-D stereographic market. Vivitar does offer the ViviCam T135 3D but it only produces anaglyph images and is therefore not of interest for our purposes here.

Finally, there is the ongoing possibility of using any regular 2-D film or digital camera for stereoscopic images using one of the two following methods. First, two identical cameras can be mounted together in a manner that permits the lenses to approximate the distance between the human eyes (greater separation is used for large or distant scenes or objects – this is sometimes called hyper-stereoscopic) and the shutters releases simultaneously to create two images.  In fact, I have been led to believe that two 35mm SLR’s were used in this manner to produce many of the old Viewmaster reels. 

Second, a single camera, film or digital, can be used to take first one image, shifted the required distance and then used to take a second image. There are a couple different methods of accomplishing this with greater or lesser precision & success but obviously this type of photography can only be used with scenes or objects that are stationary.

As I begin to explore these various methods of taking 3-D stereo photos I will as usual, share my experiences and results here with you to the extent that it is possible to do so.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

3-D Stereo Photography

One of my fondest childhood memories is my View Master and the little 3-D stereographic reels that I used to buy at the “Dime Store”. They had a rotating rack by the front door with View Master viewers and a multitude of picture reels with 3-D scenes from all over the world. They also had cartoon reels, sports reels and even educational reels.

I naturally bought View Masters and picture reels for all of my children so they could enjoy them as I had. Imagine my surprise to discover that after all these years they are still being made & sold. As I was searching online with the idea of getting another one for myself (I guess I’m getting ready for my second childhood) I got side tracked by the whole subject of 3-D stereo photography. Apparently there is a lot more to this 3-D stuff than I thought.

First there is what I enjoyed so much as a child, stereo photography which involves taking two photos simultaneously of the same scene with cameras or lenses that are approximately the same distance apart as the human eyes. These photos or slides can be viewed using a stereoscopic viewer or by either parallel or cross eyed viewing. The latter are both methods of “freeviewing” which involves training the natural eyes to see stereoscopic images in 3-D without the assistance of any devices. Apparently only about half of the world’s population is genetically equipped to do this. 

Then there is Anaglyph photography which involves using different color filters to create a 3-D effect. This is the type of 3-D that requires the special glasses like when you go see 3-D movies.

Lenticular Photography is another type that involves using three or more multiple images to simulate a 3-D effect where special viewers or glasses are not practical. This is great but it appears there is only one Canadian company still producing lenticular prints.

Since the last two methods require special equipment and processing not readily available, and I am apparently in the half of the world’s population that can “freeview” 3-D images  I will be spending my time studying and perhaps experimenting a little with stereography.